by Susan Mikula Campbell
The Wheatfield Farmers Market plans to celebrate Christmas in July on Wednesday, July 24, featuring one of its leading citizens as the "jolly old elf."
Santa will be arriving in his "cool summer sleigh," his red, 2002 Thunderbird convertible, with the top down, of course. The market, located in front of Wheatfield Town Hall on Church Road, will be open from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. and Santa is expected to pull up about 5 p.m.
Niagara County Legislature chairman and town resident Bill Ross, who's just about as well known as the real Santa in the Wheatfield area, will be the guy in the red suit for the third year at the market.
"I enjoy it. I've had a Santa Claus suit, my wife bought it about 15 years ago, and I play Santa every Christmas for my grandkids," the former coach and educator said. "You've got to remember for 47 years, I was connected with children at Niagara-Wheatfield."
His daughter Kelly O'Neill is expected to be Santa's driver and elf for the market visit.
Ross, who has been out in the heat door-to-door campaigning, in his outgoing signature style this week, is hoping for a cooler day on Wednesday.
"I'll be in full (Santa) regalia," he said, adding he plans to have a bag of treats to pass out to his fans.
The town will be providing children's activities and free ice cream, compliments of the Wheatfield Town Board members for children under 12.
Town Clerk Kathleen Harrington-McDonell said the weekly market is continuing to grow, with 10 to 14 regular vendors offering in-season fruits and vegetables, cheese, honey, baked goods, crafts and even jewelry.
New vendors this year include the Oliver Street Bakery from North Tonawanda, offering old-fashioned pizza, breads and Harrington-McDonell's favorite - bocconnoti, sweet ricotta and chocolate chip filled cookies. Also new is Payne's Pastry from Niagara Falls with jams, jellies and corn relish.
New vendor Dennis DiGesare represents Wheatfield's White Linen Teahouse on Shawnee Road, selling balsamic vinegars, olive oils, scones and cheese.
"I think it's wonderful. It's a great chance to interact with a lot of people who have seen the Tea House, but never entered it," DiGesare said of the market.
Does he buy from other vendors at the market himself?
"Oh, of course!" he said. "My wife is gluten free and they have a gluten free vendor there ... bread from two bakeries, both are fantastic, and of course the produce."